Number of people living with hypertension doubles worldwide

The number of people living with hypertension has doubled worldwide over the past 30 years to more than 1.2 billion. [Photographee.eu / SHUTTERSTOCK]

A study published in the Lancet on Wednesday (25 August) has found that the number of adults living with hypertension has doubled worldwide over the past 30 years to more than 1.2 billion.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is directly linked to more than 8.5 million global deaths each year and is the leading risk factor for stroke, ischaemic heart disease, other vascular diseases, and renal disease. 

Lowering blood pressure can reduce the number of heart attacks by a quarter and cut almost by half cases of heart failure and strokes.

The condition is considered “straightforward” to diagnose and relatively easy to treat with low-cost drugs to avoid serious health issues, however, the number of people suffering from it is rising.

Moreover, nearly half of people with hypertension worldwide in 2019 were unaware of their condition. Of those diagnosed with the condition, around half were not receiving treatment. Worldwide, blood pressure was controlled in fewer than 1 in 4 women and 1 in 5 men with hypertension.

“Despite medical and pharmacological advances over decades, global progress in hypertension management has been slow, and the vast majority of people with hypertension remain untreated, with large disadvantages in low- and middle-income countries,” said the study’s senior author, Majid Ezzati, of Britain’s Imperial College London.

In Europe, hypertension rates remain high in central and eastern countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Croatia. The study found that in these countries, together with Lithuania, Belarus and Romania, more than half of all women had hypertension. 

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Meanwhile in western European countries, including Switzerland, the UK and Spain, the prevalence of hypertension was found to have reached all-time lows. These countries also had the lowest hypertension rates in women, reaching less than 24%.

Clara Chow from the University of Sydney, Australia said that “the standstill in global prevalence and the global control rates of approximately 20% should serve as an important global wake-up call that cardiovascular disease is going to be a main burden of disease for many years to come, especially if we carry on like this.”

She added that there was an “urgent need” for a transformation and innovative approaches to reduce the burden of hypertension globally. “We need better strategies to increase diagnosis and management, leveraging primary care or existing systems or identifying new methods to engage consumers in blood pressure management,” she said.

Chow highlighted the importance of using the advantages of digital transformation “such as telemonitoring, home blood pressure monitoring, text message reminders to improve adherence, and other digital health interventions to encourage healthy behaviours” and address barriers to blood pressure control. 

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[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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